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Man Bites World -- and lives to tell about it

February 10, 2009 |  2:11 pm

After eating out 102 days in a row, sometimes multiple times in one day, Noah Galuten had just one craving left: A home-cooked meal.

Galuten is the Culver City-based blogger behind www.manbitesworld.com, who gained a following when he endeavored to sample a different nationality’s cuisine every day, for as many consecutive days as he could.

A self-described “hugely passionate food person,” Galuten, 26, figured blogging would help him keep his mind off his unemployment woes.

“It was an incredibly emasculating feeling of trying to find a job and not be able to find anything,” said Galuten, a playwright who was looking for a job, any job, in the arts. “I needed something to get my juices flowing.”

Like any good scheme, the plan was hatched with friends over Mexican food, a cuisine that Galuten

has a particular fondness for: “Any gastronomic impulse can be accommodated by Mexican food,” he says.

“I just started wondering what would happen if you took something you loved and tried to do it every day,” he said. “How long can you go in L.A., eating a different country’s cuisine every day? … We had 25-30 countries off the top of our heads. From there, it just kept building and evolved.”

The blog, and ferreting out new foods, became Galuten’s obsession, and pretty much dictated the pace of each and every day for more than three months. Friends and family -– particularly his girlfriend -– were supportive and often joined his forays.

At times, though, they’d had it. And often, they couldn’t join him -– because they were working. Or needed a night at home. Galuten couldn’t fall back on those excuses, or else he'd fall short of his goal.

“I couldn’t miss a day,” he said. “People around me were like, ‘Enough!’ [But] I had to do it every day. Every day. It was an incredibly rigorous schedule. Eventually that sort of becomes a bizarre drain on everyone.”

It was also a drain on his savings, which he’d been relying upon to get him through unemployment. Galuten figures that he spent several thousand dollars during the 102-day experiment.

Sometimes Galuten sought out the food –- through Google, Chowhound, contacting a friend of a friend for a restaurant tip, or seeking out local experts like L.A. Weekly’s Jonathan Gold.

And sometimes, the food sought him out.

Several times, he was invited to peoples’ homes to try their native cuisine, such as Slovakian food. A chef at a French restaurant in Newport Beach learned of his project and invited him into the kitchen for a meal. (It was only one of two restaurant meals that were comped during the project.)

His most memorable meal?

That would have to be at Nana & Naa International Enterprise, a “you buy, we fry” restaurant in Inglewood that specializes in food native to Ghana in Western Africa. (You can read Galuten's account of it here.)

“When I first walked in, everything stopped, they were looking at me like, ‘What’s this white guy doing in here?’ ” Galuten explained that he wanted to try Ghanaian cuisine -- and he wanted it spicy. “They got really excited, they realized I was just a guy with an open mind who wanted to learn about their culture.”

He added: “There was such kindness mixed with pride,” he recalled. “They really wanted to share their world with me. … It was really mind blowing.”

It was also a symbol of the larger life lessons that Galuten said he learned. “It was one of those meals that makes you feel really good about the world –- and to have no expectations. You can go into a situation expecting one thing. But this set the tone for how anything could turn into anything -– you just never know.”

www.manbitesworld.com gained a modest following, racking up over 150,000 hits. Since then, Galuten has been experiencing “post partum depression,” he said. His first post-project meal? A childhood favorite: his mother’s turkey Bolognese.

But the UCLA theater major is still trying to figure out what’s next. “I really need to find a job,” he said. He just had his first play, “Bermuda,” produced in Baltimore last month, but that’s not exactly paying the rent. In all likelihood, he said, his next job will have something to do with food. (Maybe bagging groceries or making coffee, he joked.)

He’s also thrown himself into a book proposal about his adventures. In the meantime, he’s busy being interviewed by local newspapers, other bloggers, radio and TV. And he's started a new blog, www.noahgaluten.com.

“This whole experience has been textbook Joseph Campbell –- follow your bliss -– and I’m going to keep doing that.”

--Rene Lynch

Video: John Vande Wege / Los Angeles Times

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